Sunday, March 18, 2012


Our first March snowstorm (of two so far)
 About two weeks ago we seeded our entire 2012 crop of onions and leeks in the annual edition of the North Branch Minifarm.  
Anna seeding leeks

Minh filling the water tub
Leek seeds in their mini trenches
We have over eighty 11”x21” trays full of potting soil and thousands of seeds, furiously putting out radicles (we hope) and starting to push their little green hairpins up out of the dirt.  Since our greenhouse is way bigger than we need for seedlings, and way bigger than we can easily heat, we plasticked off a kind of room within the greenhouse to be the seedling zone, and in there we have 9 mesh-top tables, a potting bench, a woodstove, and barrels full of hundreds of gallons of water to help moderate the temperature.  On cold nights we have to get up and stoke the woodstove through the night, and on warm days we have to open ventilate it as much as possible so it doesn’t get too hot, but given that our onion seedlings seem to be thriving, I think it’s working out.

The seedling room, looking down towards the woodstove.

Lettuce and spinach seedlings for the home garden.

Onion knees, the miniature cousins of cypress knees.
The new cow we’re milking—our Canadian Jersey—acts like a cow should: calm, placid, overall so…bovine, especially in contrast to our American “Milking” Devons.  She stays with her calf through the days, and we separate them at night so we can milk her for a gallon and a half or two of sweet Jersey milk every morning.  The rest of her herd-mates are still out in the back field, happily chomping on old round bales and sipping from the stream.  

Elsie and I dug the first spring parsnips yesterday, and I chopped them into matchsticks, tossed them with miso and olive oil and baked them for Chris’ birthday dinner last night.  They wintered well, but the ground’s still frozen solid below about six inches so many beautiful parsnips lost their elegant tails as we dug them.  After temperatures above 50°F during the days and above freezing at night in this week’s forecast, I think we’ll be able to dig parsnips and maybe even carrots by next weekend.

Tyler, Gilbert, and our apprentice Willie spent most of yesterday re-wiring the barn in preparation for becoming an official milking operation and also for being able to see in the barn at night without a headlamp (ah, modernity).  The milk room is almost totally gutted and ready to be renovated, and the next cow due to calve is starting to bag up, according to Tyler.  This farm will be seeing its first commercial milk sales for almost thirty years in the not-to-distant future; right now we plan to sell our cows’ milk to Fuzzy Udder Creamery, owned and run by the intrepid Jessie Dowling in Unity, ME.  Willie’s putting in his last week with us before he heads back over to Village Farm, where he will work for a second season.  I think he wins the “most manure moved in one week so far” award for 2012.  Not glamorous, by any means, but absolutely crucial.

The sheep are scheduled to be sheared by Tyler, Elsie, and friends on Wednesday, after which I think they will enjoy their greenhouse lodgings much more.  These days, I often go into the greenhouse with Ada to check the temperature in the seedling house and find the poor woolly ewes in the east half panting and lying around lethargically, their huge fleeces sprouting out from under their army-surplus-canvas sheep-jackets.  The ram we have on loan—Gregory Bateson—is new to being a dad, but if he did his job we’ll have around fourteen lambs in the next month or so.  And not too long after that, it will be the season of baby lambs sproinking around in the new, green grass!

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